The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

August 29, 2009

Day care dilemma: Facilities’ funding cut by state budget stalemate

Another in an occasional series on how the state budget impasse is affecting residents in Greater Johnstown.

Day-care Director Debbie Sweetser has come to know the underside of the “trickle down” theory, in which the state’s financial distress has become her own.

“We’re at the epicenter of a financial disaster,” said Sweetser, who runs Carolyn’s Child Care Center in Geistown for owner Carolyn Oliver.

“We’re just trying to ride it out. The employees haven’t been paid for a week. ...”

Sweetser wants to keep the operation running but doesn’t know how long she’ll be able to.

Hundreds of people are counting on her: 30 employees, 120 kids from age 6 weeks to 12 years and their parents.

Carolyn’s Child Care is a private company but receives state support for 75 percent of the children it watches because their families are in need.

Because of a bill pushed through the Legislature, subsidies for the day-care services and meals have not fallen to zero. But the centers are getting paid only 10 percent of their promised state funding.

As the state budget deadlock enters its third month Tuesday, Carolyn’s loss has reached about $50,000 – and it’s growing.

Sweetser breaks it down.

Carolyn’s is supposed to be paid $40,000 total from Pennsylvania for July and August but is receiving just $4,000, a shortfall of $36,000. The day care is receiving $120 for the $1,200 per week it’s owed for meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks. In the nine weeks for July and August, the center is out another $9,700.

Now, Sweetser’s shortfall is poised to affect her vendors.

She wonders how long she’ll be able to pay in full the Loretto-area farm that supplies her milk and the Johnstown company that sells her paper towels and toilet paper.

“If you can’t afford to pay for that, you’re done with little kids,” said Sweetser, a 12-year employee.

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